x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pedigree camels go under the hammer for Dh2m

Descendants of racetrack legend conceived artificially could be winning entrants in beauty competitions or sold on at a profit.

A camel struts its stuff in front of potential buyers at the auction inside Adnec.
A camel struts its stuff in front of potential buyers at the auction inside Adnec.

ABU DHABI // Young camels, many descended from one of the UAE's most prized racetrack winners, went under the hammer for as much as Dh200,000 each last night at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex).

The 15 camels, all conceived through artificial insemination at the Veterinary Research Centre in Sweihan, were sold for a total of Dh2.16 million. One bidder paid Dh1.06 million for seven camels. Proceeds from the auction at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, go towards camel breeding research at the centre. Some of the camels were as young as seven months old and they were tied to an older camel while being guided out to the auction floor. Many of those on the auction block were siblings and the third generation descending from Jabbar, one of the best-known camels in the region's racing history.

Though it has always been a tradition, camel racing has become more popular in recent years as artificial insemination becomes more common and makes it easy to reproduce offspring from prize-winning male and female racing camels, said Irfan Ahmed Khan, director of clinical laboratories and camel treatment at the centre. Because camel pregnancies are long, typically lasting 13 months, the fertilized embryos are flushed out of the uterus after conception and distributed to as many as 16 surrogate mothers in one year.

"In this way, we have been very successful in being able to breed many of the best camels possible," Mr Khan said. The young camels have not been trained and prices were based solely on their lineage, Mr Khan said. Many bidders are simply making an investment and hope to later sell the camels at a heftier price. Last year, someone bought a camel for Dh300,000 and then sold it for Dh3 million. Most of the camels sold for between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000. The priciest camel ever sold at an auction held by the centre went for Dh6 million. Last year, 18 camels were sold at the auction for more than Dh2 million.

Rashed al Mansouri, of Abu Dhabi, made tenders on five of the camels, but was outbid for each one. He currently owns 55 camels on a farm in Dibba, and he often enters his animals into camel beauty contests. He said he was disappointed he did not take any home from the exhibition. "I have been following who their parents are, who their grandparents were," Mr al Mansouri said. "They were winners in many races, and I would have been proud to own a camel with that background."

The veterinary centre plans to hold a larger auction in April at Al Wathba Camel Race Track, where about 80 camels will be sold. It has been holding the auctions for five years as interest in camels has grown, Mr Khan said. Last year, two auctions were held due to high demand. Helen Cary, who was visiting Abu Dhabi from South Africa and had just had henna painted on her hands at a nearby exhibition tent, sat in the stands behind the bidders at her first camel auction.

"I was told they were very expensive, so I'm not bidding, just enjoying the show," she said. "It's been great just to talk to people here about what a big part of the culture and tradition this is." Adihex, which has more than 500 exhibitors of guns, hunting equipment and falcons, will run until tomorrow. Features include an Arabic coffee brewing competition at 5 pm each day and beauty contests for salukis from 12pm to 2 pm.

More than 18,360 people visited the show on its opening day, according to the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which is supporting the event. @Email:econroy@thenational.ae